Re: Interlingua: Universal language?

From: Amara Graps (
Date: Sat May 06 2000 - 01:27:51 MDT

>From Spike Jones ( Sat, 29 Apr 2000

>With the speech recognition and synthesis software in its *current* state,
> which is not perfect but pretty good, it is clear that there is no longer
> any need for people to learn languages. Rather they will buy them.

However, this idea misses something that I think is an important aspect
to learning a language: learning the culture.

Embedded in the language are the thousands of nuances that describe a
culture of people.

I don't have an easy time with languages, however I am fascinated with
language differences that say something about the people speaking
that language.

For example, the verb is often placed at the end of a German sentence,
and you may know that German sentences are often long. So if one wants
to know the action of the sentence for which a speaker speaks, then one
must wait until the very end. I noticed that the result of the Germans way
of speaking is a kind of politeness with very few interruptions.

Now, native German speakers tell me that they know the action of the sentence
from the context, so that interruptions still occur, but I propose that
there are far fewer rude and impolite remarks in a German discussion than
in an English discussion (where the verb is usually stated right away).

Another example is something I just learned regarding the French language.
I spent the last two weeks in France, and I stumbled by with the basic words
like hello, please, thank you, counting numbers, etc. but I had some trouble
with "you're welcome". You know, that word that you should say in any
language when someone opens the door for you, or some similar nice
gesture. Usually it is just one word.

However, I discovered that the French have a lot of different words
for saying "you're welcome" with slightly different meanings, depending on
the context! What can that tell you about the people? I interpret that
charming language nuance as: the context of "thank you/you're welcome"
has enough importance to this culture that they have expanded it into
a flavorful variety of choices, to give the communicators more expression
to this particular situation.

Now how would one put these thousands of charming language nuances that
describe a culture into a language translator? Perhaps this is a question
to the linguists on the list.

I think that it is an impossible task, and furthermore, why would one
want to? (I wouldn't)


Amara Graps email:
Computational Physics vita: finger
Multiplex Answers URL:
"It works better if you plug it in." -- Sattinger's Law

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